Short sales – friend or foe…


By Steve Levine

Short sales – friend or foe…Like it or not, short sales have become a harsh reality of the Massachusetts real estate marketplace, representing, in some areas, over 20 percent of the available inventory.

In the past, most buyers, and their agents, were quick to shy away from even looking at these homes, and for good reason. The vast majority of the time, you might wait months to even get a response, and even then, that response was usually a request for even more information. Other times, you would get pretty far along in the process, only to find that your contact doesn's work there anymore, and has been replaced by a new person who wants you to start all over again!

To the investor looking for a good value on a piece of rental property, this wasn's a big issue. They might throw four or five offers out there at a time, hoping that one might come through, but not being concerned either way if it didn's. For the homebuyer looking for a place to live, this was an entirely different story, as they don's typically have the luxury of waiting six months for a response, while other great properties come on the market and then sell. It was an uphill battle for sellers, too, as they chose to go the short sale route in order to do the minimum amount of credit damage, and more importantly in the hopes of avoiding the “forgiveness of debt” tax that can be imposed.

The whole system hinges on how well, how thoroughly, and how quickly the parties can put together the information that the lender needs to make a decision on a potential offer.

The key player that people don's usually think of in these matters is the real estate agent, who is often the one really driving this train towards completion. It is, without a doubt, a road full of pitfalls, and requires experience and an organized commitment to make it happen.

I recall meeting with a home seller not long ago who had been previously listed with another agent, and had been frustrated by the process. When I finally sat down with them, they indicated that the lender wanted new bank statements, because the ones that they had were three months old. I asked when they were sending them, and they told me that they meant to do it a few weeks ago, but their printer wasn's working! Why nobody offered to help them print a document, I's not sure, but here's a deal being left to die for lack of a working ink cartridge.

One of the best things we did this year was to take the bulk of these things off the plate of the sellers by putting together a dedicated “short sale negotiating team.” This group is made up of our in-house attorneys and paralegal staff who dedicate their day to processing short sale paperwork, calling a lender five times a day, and preparing documentation for review – all of it at no charge to the sellers, because we have them on our payroll.

When we take on a short sale listing, we simply arrange a quick phone meeting between the seller and the short sale team, and then they handle everything from there. This allows me, as the agent, to focus my energy on the marketing of the property, getting us a bona fide offer, and getting through the inspection. The seller can focus on working through the many other things that are probably going on in their lives at this point and it creates as stress free a scenario as possible.

To learn more about this part of the process, and how it can make your life so much easier, just e-mail me at [email protected] or call me at 1-508-735-4663.

Steve Levine is President of Steve Levine Inc, and an agent at REMAX Prestige.

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